Report: Only ‘unforeseen collapse’ could keep Thunder from hiring Billy Donovan
Oklahoma City general Sam Presti has known Donovan for years, and if Donovan intends to leave Florida for the NBA, he won’t get a better opportunity than this. It’s difficult to see what would stand in the way at this point.
Donovan would be walking into a team with championship expectations. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook alone create those, but the Thunder also have a strong supporting cast led by Serge Ibaka. Only health held back Oklahoma City this season, and the same projects to be true next season – at least beyond the coach.
Optimistically, Donovan could be a cross between Steve Kerr (a first-year coach who immediately turned the Warriors into championship favorites) and Brad Stevens (who successfully made the college-to-pro transition). But Kerr had spent years playing in the NBA and working in the Suns’ front office, and Stevens is the exception, not the rule.
More realistically, Donovan could be the next David Blatt – someone highly successful at a level beneath the NBA who needed time to adjust to the world’s top league. And that wouldn’t be so bad. Blatt had the Cavaliers rolling entering the playoffs and through a first-round sweep of the Celtics, though he’s still adapting.
Of course, there are more pessimistic comparisons, as well. Pick essentially any college coach on this list.
But if the Thunder believe in Donovan, they’ll give him plenty of support. With a strong backing from Presti and Durant (at least for a year) and Westbrook on the roster, Donovan is positioned to succeed.
Donovan is getting a big-time job – and all the pressure that comes with it.